Insurance CIOs Should Embrace Project Review Panels

By instituting a project review panel, executive teams ensure that more of their people are involved in preparing for the company’s future. It also introduces another device to enhance communication and understanding among staff.

As the insurance industry cycles from the soft market of the past several years towards a hard market, many insurance executives are focused inward –  getting their “houses in order” – so to be best positioned for the decreased capacity and more stringent underwriting scrutiny that comes with a hard market contraction.

As one might imagine, a multitude of projects and programs tend to spring from such endeavors. In this day and age, most carriers have adopted a project portfolio approach that helps manage the project work.  However, many firms have yet to embrace the concept of project review panels.

A project review panel is composed of staff members who periodically review each currently active project as it evolves from kick-off to completion. There can be a review panel established for each project or one panel that is to review all active projects. The choice depends on the size of the organization and the degree to which the executive team wants to involve staff in project work.

Besides establishing a mechanism for project teams to gain periodic input from their peers – improving the quality of project work products – project review panels, also, act as an employee engagement device.

Here are some key points to consider when establishing the project review panel process:

  • A project review panel is composed of no less than six and no more than eight staff members;
  • The panel encompasses staff from across the company and all reporting levels;
  • Only a few hours per month (e.g., typically four to eight hours/month) will be required of a panelist;
  • Once fully established, panelists will be asked to participate over the course of a six month rotation;
  • The replacement of those asked to be on the inaugural review panel may be staggered so to provide ongoing continuity on the panel as its membership evolves over time;
  • Panel reviews will be scheduled into each project’s task list.
  • Typically, a panel review will be conducted by a project team upon completion of each major milestone;
  • Panelists are expected to raise important questions/issues and provide an “outsider’s point of view” to each project team;
  • Panelists are required communicate and discuss what they are learning about the projects with their peers so to promote better communication within the company, and;
  • The review panel has no approval or sign-off responsibilities – its sole purpose is to provide additional input to project teams.

As outlined above, it is imperative that project teams fold periodic project review panel meetings into their project task lists. It is recommended that these reviews take place upon delivery of each major project milestone.

By instituting a project review panel, executive teams ensure that more of their people are involved in the company’s project work and preparation for the future. Additionally, it introduces another device that can be used to enhance communication and understanding among staff within the firm.

James M. Kerr // James M. Kerr is a partner at BlumShapiro Consulting in West Hartford, Conn., and a strategy thought leader who has worked with clients from both the carrier and vendor segments of the insurance industry.  His latest book, The Executive Checklist, is now available.  You can contact him at

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